Western Native Voice Launches Road Tour to Educate Constituents
Thursday, July 13, 2023
Indigenous advocates kick off educational listening sessions in rural Montana this month to educate Native Americans about actions the state legislature took this session soon to affect them.
The group Western Native Voice holds culturally tailored community meetings to ensure Montana's Native Americans are engaged in and educated about policy decisions affecting their lives. The group is embarking on a series of listening and teaching sessions to help Native populations around Montana understand issues ranging from health care to voting rights.
Adam Beaves-Fisher, deputy director of government and political relations for the group, said equal access to polls, mail-in ballots and broadband Internet are especially crucial in rural areas, and disproportionately affect Montana's Indigenous population.
"These are real challenges that when you are faced with raising a family, going to work," Beaves-Fisher observed. "When you have these extra barriers that rural Montanans are facing, that creates a real disincentive to vote and engage in the process."
Western Native Voice is starting its legislative tour in Fort Peck July 27 and will continue around the state into September with stops on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation in north-central Montana.
Beaves-Fisher also pointed out Montana's Native American population is chronically undercounted in the U.S. Census, which leaves the state's rural Indigenous people under funded and underrepresented. He added the latest figures are no exception.
"By our estimate, on a conservative basis, Montana tribes are missing out on over $745 million annually because of that undercount," Beaves-Fisher explained. "I think that it's really important that all Montanans and Native Montanans really prepare for the 2030 Census and that counts all Montanans."
Beaves-Fisher added a lack of communication about the existence of the Census and its importance are the critical reasons for the lack of Indigenous representation, especially in hard to reach rural areas.
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